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Rare, Surreal Find Along Oregon, Washington Coast: Red Towers

Published 02/06/21 at 4:56 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Rare, Surreal Find Along Oregon, Washington Coast: Red Towers

(Cannon Beach, Oregon) – One of the stranger winter finds along the Oregon coast would have to be the “red towers” - surreal, reddish formations that come in an endless variety of shapes and sizes. Red towers don't even have to be towers, and in fact they're frequently something else entirely. They can often show as odd little, winding chunks of crust.

To some they'll look like a drawing out of Dr. Suess; to others they'll resemble the striking album art of Roger Dean and the Yes albums of the ‘70s.

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Essentially, they're rather rare and only show up when sand levels get extremely low. Even then they're not around for long. Red towers can't take the tidal action very well and usually disintegrate within a few days to a week or so. Right now, however, there is that possibility to find them wherever there's newly gouged-out beaches, especially if the bedrock is showing. With some reports of ghost forests happening around the Oregon coast this last month that's a hint. If you see ghost forests they could be near.

Some areas of the Washington coast may also present these, depending on the geology of the area.

However, the year-round ghost forest of Neskowin won't yield these sights. Sand levels don't get low enough there.

What are the red towers?

It's a fairly simple but eyebrow-raising explanation, according to Seaside geologist Tom Horning.

Basically, beach sand is cemented by red iron oxide, formed beneath feet of sand layers, likely ten feet or more.

“Minerals cement the sands together to form reinforced, irregular bodies within and under the beach, which are then exposed to the casual observer when the beach is washed away,” Horning said. “Not uncommonly, the tops of the towers are exposed first, and rocks will wear these away, creating little pot-hole craters that make attractive landforms for photographers.”

Those minerals and structures are present beneath beach sands all the time, and only when the sand levels get dug out low enough do they show up. Then it's not long before they're gone.

With most of storm season wrapped up, you're chances of finding them are greatly diminished. But not impossible.

Where to find red towers on the Oregon coast?

See the full gallery of these below

Arch Cape and Hug Point south of Cannon Beach are known for producing these on occasion if ghost forests and bedrock are showing there. They've been spotted on the central Oregon coast even more rarely at ghost forest sites like Moolack Beach.

On the southern Oregon coast the criteria would be the same: bedrock and / or sand levels that have dropped suddenly because of storms. It is, of course, not guaranteed anywhere.

In the past, Oregon Coast Beach Connection has collected a variety of interesting examples in-camera. No two formations are ever the same, so no year's appearance of them is ever similar either. Just like the Vulcans on Star Trek say: “Infinite diversity in infinite combinations.”

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